Russia’s Vladimir Putin Tells IAAF, ‘Doping? Forghedaboudit!’

  • David Young

Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

The governing body that oversees international track and field, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), is very interested in what athletes put in their bodies. Or more precisely, what Russian President Vladimir Putin has put in his country’s athletes’ bodies. The IAAF will meet on Friday to determine whether to suspend Russia for what WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) has identified as “state-sponsored” doping. Wait, isn’t Putin the guy that rides shirtless on horses and kills bears with lasers from his eyes? The guy other world leaders are afraid of?

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Yep, that’s him. And of course, he responded in a very Putinesque manner, disputing the claims and calling for his own internal investigation:

Sportsmen who don’t dope – and never have – must not answer for those who break the rules… If we find that someone must be held responsible for something of the sort that breaks the rules in place against doping, then the responsibility must be personalised – that’s the rule.

So Putin wants to make things personal. Gulp. Will this be a totally transparent investigation with the chance it could find Russia in fact was guilty of organized doping?

The battle must be open… A sporting contest is only interesting when it is honest.

Doesn’t sound like it. WADA has already taken away the accreditation of Russia’s drug-testing lab, after accusing its director of covering up positive doping tests, extorting money from athletes, and destroying 1,417 samples before inspectors visited. Sounds like there isn’t much need for an additional investigation.

Even if Putin bullies his way into a whitewash of the investigation, losing his country’s lab creates two immediate problems. First, fielding a team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio may be difficult, especially if Russia finds itself suspended for any length of time. Second, Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup, which needs a lab to test players. Sadly for global sports, the latter might not be as big a problem as Brazil also had its lab shut down during the 2014 World Cup, and player samples were sent to labs in Switzerland and Germany, at an added cost of about a quarter of a million dollars for FIFA. A fee they seem happy to pay. But then again, FIFA is not the paragon of virtue.

This week Putin said, “We must rid ourselves of this problem.” One wonders whether he meant doping athletes or WADA. We’ll have to wait and see.

Photo via Getty

David Young has been a columnist for ESPN and Sports Illustrated and is one for SportsGrid.